The Chief of Defence as chief of complaints, lamentations

The Chief of Defence as chief of complaints, lamentations

By Owei Lakemfa.

Opinion: NIGERIA is at war. Nigerians rely on the government to prosecute and win the war. In turn, government relies on the Armed Forces to win the war. But the Chief of Defence Staff, General Christopher Musa, who is expected to lead the armed forces to war and win, has become the Chief of Complaints and Lamentations of the Federal Republic.

General Musa led other service chiefs on November 21, 2023 to brief the House of Representatives in Abuja. He had complaints against the police and the Ministry of Justice that have powers to prosecute. He told the parliament: “I have been in the North-East; there were a lot of Boko Haram elements that have been captured. We have kept them for five/six years.

We the armed forces can arrest but cannot prosecute. Some of them have been found wanting but no prosecution.” First, the Constitution frowns at the indefinite detention without trial. So, how can the military keep suspects for five-six years without trial? What happens if they are innocent? What did the military as an institution do to ensure justice?

Then General Musa blamed the judiciary: “Another aspect of the judiciary is that you use all your effort to make an arrest, you hand them over, and before you enter your vehicle, the man has been released on bail. Now you have risked yourself in doing that, by the time he is released, he goes to tell the people about the person who arrested him. Now your family members or you are at risk.”

This in many aspects is hyperbolic. But if in truth suspects are granted bail, then they must have been charged with bailable offences. Suspects cannot be denied bail because the army thinks otherwise. I am not sure the families of soldiers or those who effect arrest of suspects are put at risk. If they are, what that calls for is a victim protection programme, not blaming the judiciary for admitting suspects on bail.

Then he turns to the Correctional Services, accusing it of aiding terrorism: “In the North- East, when we were debriefing some of the arrested Boko Haram members, they were telling us how, from the prison, they could plan operations out in the field.

“They pass funds across. They use some of the warders there. We are not saying all of them are corrupt. They use their accounts and the deal is that anyone whose account is used shares it 50/50. Those are the challenges.” If this were true, then we should have witnessed the prosecution of these accomplices. Unfortunately, the General did not present any evidence to back up his claims against the Correctional Services.

Also, the Defence Chief lamented: “We don’t produce what we need in Nigeria and if you do not produce what you need, that means you are at the beck and call of the people that produce these items.” The question is why? The Nigerian military has ran the Defence Industries Corporation of Nigeria, DICON, since 1964; that is for 59 years now. How come it has been incapable of producing the basic needs of the military? If it has been unable to do that, the Chief of Defence should tell us why, and not just open the Book of Lamentations.

In his theorisation on good governance General Musa argued: “Security is not only military security. We have food security, health security, social security and education security. All these always play a role. If we don’t put these things in place – good governance – there will be problems.” This is correct. However, his follow up revelation that: “We (Military) have realised that the magic wand to address insecurity is good governance. Anywhere you have good governance, insecurity goes down”, is basic common sense.

His conclusion: “People can’t eat. People are hungry. No matter how you tell them to keep the peace, they will not because they have to eat and it aids criminality. So, we must have good governance.” This is correct. It is also an indictment of governance, at least since 1999 when the military was kicked out of power for constituting a danger to the country and traumatising the populace.

The Defence Chief was not quite clear when he said: “The security forces can only produce 30 per cent. We can only provide an enabling environment.

 If other aspects are not addressed, it is a problem.” Yes, but a fundamental problem is that the military perceives war as being between it and identified enemies. The truth that the main victims of war, and therefore, those that can defeat the enemy, is the populace, is lost on the military.

The military is a tiny spec in a population of over 200 million people. So, to take on and defeat terrorists, bandits, foreign invaders and separatists, we need a mass mobilisation of the people and an armed volunteer force of the populace. It makes no sense that a town of hundreds of thousands of people flee and empty out within hours, just because a hundred armed hoodlums on motor bikes ride into town shooting in the air.

There is no reason why Nigerians cannot have mass training and be armed to defend themselves, their families and homes. There is no reason why, given our security situation, the National Youth Service Corps scheme cannot be transformed into a paramilitary force that can, with the locals, hold their ground against bandits.

As the military chief complained against government and other groups, he did not do soul-searching. When you have an armed forces and security services imbued with impunity, which manifest indiscipline and do not practice esprit de corps amongst themselves, there is a big problem.

Apart from their usual attacks on the civil populace which has led to alienation, the military and security services have in the last few months been engaged in armed inter- agency combats. Just on November 21, 2023, soldiers invaded the Adamawa State Police Command, killing Inspector Jacob Daniel. The Commander 23 Armoured Corps, Brigadier General Gambo Mohammed, justified the attack on the basis that the invaders went to “rescue” their colleague.

On November 17, 2023, the Nigeria Air Force personnel invaded the offices of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, in Kaduna to set suspects free. The State Security Services, SSS, beat up Nigeria Correctional Services personnel in the Abuja High Court to seize former Central Bank Governor, Godwin Emefiele. The SSS had on May 29, 2023 used force to seize the EFCC offices at 15A Awolowo Road, Ikoyi-Lagos.

When the military is pointing an accusing finger at bodies like the Executive, Judiciary, Immigration and Correctional Services, it should know that its other four fingers are pointing at itself.

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